Tucson got the chance to show off its business prowess last week when some of the nation’s top site selectors came for a visit.
Last year, the Site Selectors Guild chose Tucson for its annual conference and five members returned last week for a more in-depth look at what the region has to offer companies looking to expand or relocate.
The group toured downtown, where they met with representatives from Caterpillar’s Surface Mining & Technology division and asked about what put Tucson over the top for their new division headquarters, which is under construction west of downtown.
Christopher Dupont, the chief financial officer for Caterpillar Global Mining, said the cooperation from government and the private sector stood out.
He said 85 percent of employees from Illinois accepted the transfer to Tucson. The plan was to have around 300 employees by the time the new headquarters opens in 2019, but the company is on target to have around 400 employees here by the end of this year.
Temporary space in a county-owned building at 97 E. Congress St. is already full and Caterpillar has leased additional space at 1 S. Church Ave.
The site selectors were surprised at the high rate of transfers.
Standing across the street from the City Park development, which is under construction, the group heard from Hexagon Mining about its decision to expand in Tucson and move its office into the downtown project.
Nicholas Hare, director of finance for Hexagon, said the new space — developed by Bourn Companies — has served as a recruiting tool for the firm, which also plans to hold trade shows there.
During a walk through Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus, the site selectors were told about the school’s ability to tailor its curriculum to match the needs of companies moving in.
The certificate and associate’s programs offer machining, automotive, electronics and welding to students, said Ana Greif, PCC’s program manager for workforce development and continuing education.
The group also visited Raytheon to hear about expansion plans, World View, the University of Arizona and the ongoing construction of the Caterpillar site.
Ian McDowell, regional director of Sundt in Tucson, told the group about the site preparation work and the — so far — smooth flow that could lead to an earlier completion.
“Construction will be vertical within a month,” he said.
The Site Selectors Guild is an invitation-only organization with a stringent vetting process. Guild members help companies identify the best location for an expansion or relocation based on amenities and demographics.
During last year’s conference in Tucson, as host the city was not necessarily highlighted, so the return visit was significant.
“It gives them a chance to look at the community’s assets and puts us on their radar,” Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said. “At the end of this, we’ll have the opportunity to speak about our strengths and what we can do better.”
The organization guides location projects valued at more than $30 billion.
“Site selectors are very influential consultants who make recommendations to major corporations on relocations and expansions,” said Laura Shaw, vice president of marketing for Sun Corridor Inc. “A lot of times people think of Tucson as a visitor destination so it’s important to showcase our tech and business center.
“They’re interested in what makes us unique. What’s our sweet spot?”